Basics of File Transfer Protocol [FTP]

You will hear some jargons, when you start working with WordPress or any other content management systems. FTP is one such word, you need to understand before start building your website. In this article, let us explain the basics of FTP to make sure you understand the importance.

What is FTP?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It is a mechanism for transferring files between a local computer and a web server using standard TCP / IP protocol. FTP uses client-server architecture to transfer files between the host server and remote computer. In order to use FTP you need to have a FTP account with hosting company to access the server and special FTP programs installed locally on your PC or Mac.

File Transfer Protocol
File Transfer Protocol

How to Setup FTP?

There are two steps in setting up FTP account in order to connect to a server remotely from your computer.

FTP Server Account

The first step is to create a FTP account on your hosting server. Almost all hosting companies like Bluehost, SiteGround and HostGator will allow you to create FTP accounts.

Add FTP Account in Bluehost
Add FTP Account in Bluehost

When you setup FTP account, ensure to choose the access to the required directory. You can leave the “Directory” text box blank to have root level access. Alternatively, when you want to share the FTP accounts with anyone, we strongly recommend to create account having access to the specific directory. Generally the permission with read / write / execute access is by default available to the FTP account. In some cases, you may also need to setup file permissions in cPanel if required.

Installing Local FTP Client

Second step is to install a FTP software on your PC or Mac. After installing, you can configure the software to access the server using the FTP account and password created in the previous step. You can login to your server through the FTP client program using FTP account and remotely upload, download and modify files located on a server.

File Transfer Protocol Access
File Transfer Protocol Access

Why You Need FTP?

FTP is very useful especially with self-hosted platforms like WordPress which needs frequent modification of core files. Some of the frequent examples are given below:

  • Modifying .htaccess file for setting redirection.
  • Modifying robots.txt file in order to restrict search engine crawlers.
  • Editing core installation files like wp-config.php to achieve specific features which can’t be done through the front end.
  • Restoring the content during emergency situations.
  • Backup your site content like images.

It is highly recommended to have a FTP access with WordPress hosting company so that you can backup and restore the site on emergency situations without relying on others.

FTP Clients

There are many FTP client programs available exclusively for macOS and Windows based PCs. They were either created by individual creators or by a community. Below are some examples of FTP clients:

  • FileZilla for Windows
  • FileZilla for Mac
  • Cyberduck for Mac

Configuring FTP Client

Once the software is installed, you need to configure by adding the server, port, FTP username and password to connect to your hosting server. Below is how the site manager (configuration screen) looks like in FileZilla.

Connect FileZilla to Bluehost Server
Connect FileZilla to Bluehost Server

Steps involved in connecting to your site are:

  1. Click on the new site button.
  2. Add your site.
  3. Enter host name, port, protocol, user and password details obtained from your FTP account on hosting server.
  4. Click “Connect” button to connect to your hosting server remotely.

Once connected, the configurations are saved successfully. Hence, you can quickly reconnect to the same server without doing configuration every time.

Learn more on connecting FileZilla to Bluehost and FileZilla guide for beginners.

Editorial Staff at WebNots are team members who love to build websites and share the learning with webmasters community. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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